Sunday, 12 February 2012

The Great Hunt - Chapters 45-50

In this section, almost every character gets a chance to shine in the final showdown.
Another pitfall of having several plotlines is that they all should resolve themselves satisfactorily. That means every character which has played a role should get a chance to participate, and hopefully achieve victory over the forces that oppose them. In this final sequence, Rand, Egwene, Nynaeve, Min, Mat, Ingtar, Bayle, and Geofram all get their chance to shine. Perrin and Elayne simply tag along.
Ba’alzamon wanted to get Egwene and Nynaeve out of the way, to keep them in Seanchan until the Last Battle. He does not want Rand to have any help. He wants Rand to have to shoulder the duty alone. He wisely assumes that being from Emond’s Field and having more potential than any living Aes Sedai is enough to justify removing them. His orders to do so came at a time when Rand had disappeared from the world entirely. Was this also an attempt to draw Rand out of hiding?
It’s hard to say how Rand achieved victory over Turak the Seanchan Blademaster. Luck, a bit of the element of surprise, and the Seanchan heron mark maybe not being worth as much as one from this side of the ocean. Rand’s challenges are incidental, his major obstacle was overcome by his insistence that saving Mat and Egwene is worth more than the Horn, which proved pivotal in redeeming Ingtar and setting the winning conditions for the final battle. The idea that Rand must think of others’ salvation is key not only to this battle, but to the Last Battle. The redemption of Ingtar the Darkfriend was easy. In the Last Battle Rand will be striving to redeem the worst of the worst, those who were Forsaken by the rest of humanity.
Lanfear is the villain most likely to be redeemed. Her likeness to Pandora and Eve, her role in unleashing the Dark One on an unsuspecting world, and her eventual bad situation in later books all point to Rand taking a hand in her redemption. She is as bad as they come. And, there are some prophecies relating to her that have to be fulfilled, her new lover must serve her and die, yet serve still. Ingtar’s role was to show that Rand can redeem Darkfriends, and to introduce the concept that no one can walk so long in the Shadow that they cannot come again to the Light. Later, Rand will discuss such matters with a Forsaken, Asmodean. If his role is to save humanity, then he has to save all of it, even the worst dregs.
The courage and resourcefulness displayed by Nynaeve is the stuff of legends. Faced with certain doom if she fails, her bold resolve is the brightest point of the novel’s ending. She walks into the heart of darkness and emerges with Egwene’s freedom. Like Rand, she is looking for salvation of others, not glory. Her administration of justice to Renna and Seta gives such satisfaction, as she follows her own advice: it’s all right to hate them, but it isn’t all right to let them make you like they are. The depiction of justice is consistent with that in earlier Robert Jordan works, such as his Conan novels.  Those who live by the sword, die by that same sword, those who take too much rope will eventually hang themselves, and those who won’t change their evil ways will get what’s coming to them.
Egwene gets a chance to turn her new skills on the Seanchan. More importantly, she unequivocally sets Rand aside, allowing Min to stake her own claim on his affection. Like Rand, Min has halfheartedly tried to avoid her destiny, but finally accepts what must happen. She will play out her part as one of the three women in Rand’s life, even as Lanfear stakes her own claim, telling Min that she is but a caretaker, Lews Therin belongs to her. Lanfear does not Travel, she vanishes. Since she claims dominion over the World of Dreams, she must be entering it directly to perform her vanishing act so quickly.
Bornhald and Bayle Domon have lesser roles, important to explain the larger events unfolding, not important enough to spend half a page on. Bornhald’s death is no loss, his role was to bring his son Dain and his Lord Commander Pedron Niall into the story. The Children of the Light play peripheral roles throughout the series, and their principal function relates to Perrin’s murders, which is heavily accentuated in this book. Bayle Domon’s function is to provide a point of contact with the Seanchan, which none of the other characters can do. In this book, it was important not to show Seanchan points of view, since they are agents of Ba’alzamon. Humanizing them now would have reduced their villainy. Trying to change a prejudice given to readers is difficult. Later Seanchan encounters will undermine original assumptions, and show that there are some citizens of the Empire who were never really all that fond of the way damane are treated. It is their perspectives readers will be introduced to once Bayle Domon is able to befriend one at a later date.
Moiraine provides insight to Padan Fain’s condition. It is only of use for later story arcs, as is the outstanding prophecy about Elayne and the red-hot iron and the axe. Rand may also be associated with this viewing, his being a white-hot iron and a bloody hand. Too similar to not be related.
Rand describes a feeling that threads touching his life are in danger, a feeling of being pulled towards Falme. One can believe in destiny, but as a plot device it is horribly contrived. There seemed to be enough pulling Rand towards Falme without having feelings of certitude that the Pattern wants him to do it. Is this some type of ta’veren effect, similar to how the ta’veren will later be able to see each other through swirls of colour?  
When Mat sounds the Horn of Valere, the real world and the World of Dreams are connected for a time. The feeling of looking down on events from above is similar to later descriptions of spying on others from the World of Dreams. Through this connection between worlds, the Heroes are able to temporarily leave their home in the World of Dreams, and interact with the Seanchan. Interestingly, the Heroes of the Horn come for the hornblower, but will only follow the Dragon, and the banner.
Writing Lessons:
Any character introduced should have a chance to complete their story arc, or you risk reader annoyance.

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